Last year marked the start of Wikipedia Loves Libraries (WLL), and in 2012, WLL activities are in full swing, with many events planned in the coming month. WLL was originally conceived as a way of celebrating Open Access Week, but we now have WLL events throughout the year. As a librarian who is interested in seeing more coordination between libraries and other cultural heritage organizations (i.e. GLAM), I’d like to offer some perspectives on why libraries and Wikipedia are so well aligned with one another.
The bottom line is that we share a common mission. We are dedicated to providing free access to information and knowledge. Wikipedians want to strengthen their articles by citing credible sources. If those sources are in print, or hidden behind paywalls, it undermines the important tenant of free access.
Libraries collect those same credible sources and make them freely available to patrons. Partnering with libraries helps keep sources free. Librarians value “information literacy,” which means teaching the general public to recognize, appreciate and rely on credible sources. Sound familiar? Teaching basic Wikipedia editing skills can be a great, practical way to re-enforce information literacy skills.
Encouraging more librarians to become Wikipedians will also help address the gender gap. Librarians are an almost mirror image of Wikipedians in terms of gender – a March 2012 survey of members of the American Library Association found that 80.7 percent of those in the profession are female (versus about 10 percent of Wikipedians).
So, if you haven’t already, reach out to your local librarian. Suggest a WLL event, or find out if you can use library space to hold an editathon on a topic of local interest. Ask for help from your library in promoting events, not only to library patrons, but also to staff. Be patient, and recognize that librarians may move at a slower pace than Wikipedians (and that they have a range of other events and activities on top of their day-to-day duties). Be complementary to see if you can find a way for Wikipedia activities to harmonize with areas where the library is already investing. If you make the effort, I think you’ll have a good shot at creating a beautiful partnership, and creating some new Wikipedians in the process.
-Merrilee Proffitt, Senior Program Officer, OCLC Research (User:Mlet)